After such a long time juggling so many responsibilities, I’d finished my Masters. But life was about to get tricky…and there was bound to be a straw that broke the camel’s back eventually!
In the beginning
A couple of key things started it all.
The battle to get our son his diagnosis. The new manager at work that was clearly a bully, but I couldn’t see it at the time.
Sometimes we fill our time to escape the thoughts and worries that hound us. I took on more responsibilities volunteering and did over time at work.
To balance the stress, I started walking to work – walking amongst the trees twice a day was so enjoyable, that it felt like I was in another world between work and home. I gave myself a lamppost as a stop point, to switch off from work and start to plan my evening. Or vice versa. When I reached that lamp post I felt like I’d been released!
My life felt balanced, regardless of the stresses and strains of everyday life. I felt happy!
But changes were afoot! My work place wanted me to take on the job of the Manager. A job I wasn’t quite ready for. But a job I could see I needed to do. Because the department needed someone with optimism and a naive sense that all is well.
At first, the job was lovely. My colleagues welcomed me with open arms and I felt like together we could reach any target we set (we actually did too!).
But the same year, the battle for a diagnosis was still on going and without it, the new high school would not provide the support my son needed. There were many mornings when I walked amongst those trees calling the school to ask for help. Feeling like a crazy over-bearing mother.
That was probably the start of the wellness becoming a little less so. Chipping away at me.
Our son eventually got his diagnosis. The school straight away became supportive.
Meanwhile at work, the strain of a steep learning curve as a manager was taking its toll on me. So I took online courses in my ‘spare’ time.
For the next couple of years, our department went from strength to strength. We knew the plan for the amalgamation of 150 labs down to just 9 – it loomed over us. We were adamant we’d bid for the tender when it came and we’d win! But it was such hard work. There was more work coming in with the smallest team of staff we’d ever had. The only choice was to work overtime every weekend.
The signs of burn out started within a year of becoming manager. Palpitations. Waking in the night with racing thoughts. Then the panic attacks started. I’d never experienced one before, so I thought I was having a heart attack! But then it went away. After this happened three times in a month, I went to the GP. He did an ECG and said I was fine. Stress wasn’t mentioned.
I was tired all the time. Then I started to feel nervous about family occasions and gatherings with friends (just thought it was my age!) I felt the need to escape to the bathroom when I was out, just for 5 minutes to breathe. So I told myself I was being silly and forced myself to say yes to every invite.
I tried to balance the stress with some yoga and joining a pottery class.
There was always going to be a straw that broke the camel’s back though. Our workplace didn’t bid. We knew we’d be closing within a year, but didn’t know when. Stress was common where I worked. Mental health was not at the forefront. My manager was stressed too. So when he snapped and shouted at me one day (about something that was nothing to do with me), something inside me snapped. That was the straw. I walked out, crying all the way home.
That night I put on a smile for parents evening. The next day I went to my new GP. He was so understanding. I told him I didn’t need anti-depressants. But after a week the nightmares were so bad and I felt so numb. I succumbed.
It took me 16 months to heal. Practice self care and switch off. Learn about burn out and anxiety. Wean myself off the tablets.
I’m better now. I hope, if you’re suffering from any of those warning signs, you get help. Before it’s too late. You are important. Your health is important. You matter.